Secret Santas pay layaway at area Kmart

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - At the layaway counter at Kmart on San Jose Boulevard employees have been seeing a lot of smiles and even tears thanks to Secret Santas willing to pay for other people's items.

"It's amazing," said Robert Abercrombie, an assistant manager at Kmart. "I know times are rough for everybody, but it's amazing these Secret Santas are coming into our stores. They're just normal people like you and me who want to help out."

Abercrombie has worked at Kmart for 39 years, and he said he's never seen this level of generosity with his customers. He said as many as three to five people a day are coming in, willing to pay off layaway items for complete strangers.

They're remaining anonymous, and they're not sparing any expense.

"We had a previous gentleman pay over $1,000 on six layaways," Abercrombie said.

Whenever someone comes in and asks to be a Secret Santa, employees say they look to their lists. They see who's behind on their payments and who has toys on their lists.

"After the Secret Santa has hit our store, we call those customers up personally and tell them something special has happened to their layaway, and we ask them to come into the store and then we surprise them," Abercrombie said.

So why are so many people giving? Abercrombie believes it's because a lot more people are taking advantage of the layaway program, and he also believes more people are hearing about the Secret Santa concept through word of mouth.

Abercrombie said families that may not have been able to pay off their layaway items will now have a very merry Christmas.

"They are so happy, but they are so grateful to have this particular Santa come by," he said.

Each Kmart is handling Secret Santas a little bit differently. But if you want to become a Secret Santa, all you have to do is go to the store and to the layaway counter and express interest.

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